If you like mysteries and police procedurals, here’s Katrine Engberg’s debut novel set in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Tenant is the first in a new series.
Esther DeLaurenti is a retired professor of literature and has settled back onto the third floor of the building she owns, ready to write her first mystery. But fiction and real life cross a dangerous intersection when one of Esther’s tenants, 21-year-old Julie Stender, is murdered on the first floor. As investigators uncover crime scene clues, Esther is shocked to discover that the murder closely mirrors the plot in her manuscript, including the violent killer’s chilling message.
Jeppe Kørner is the lead police investigator and joins up with his partner, Annette Werner. Under pressure to solve the crime quickly, they enlist their team of detectives to find Julie’s killer. Like all mysteries, the investigators have their own pasts that influence how they do their jobs. Kørner is newly-divorced, battling back pain and emerging from a depressive episode. He clashes with his partner and her irritating ways. And the dynamics among team members suggest grudges and hidden agendas. But the investigation continues, raising questions about the men in Julie’s life, including Kristoffer Gravgaard, Esther’s awkward friend and a new love interest, the “Mysterious Mr. Mox.” Equally strange is Julie’s father, whose alarming reactions raise warning flags and of particular interest is a suspicious dinner party held at Esther’s apartment earlier that year.
Some of the story takes place at the Royal Danish Theatre, where Kristoffer works as a dresser and Kørner had once trained as a performer, a dream career given up for more practical police work. The author knows this world well—she is a former dancer and choreographer in television and theater.
A second dramatic murder is no doubt related, placing additional pressure on Kørner, just as his personal life gets reckless. When the killer begins an online dialogue with Esther, Kørner takes steps to protect her, but will that be enough?
Many of Enberg’s characters struggle with the shame of loss and abandonment as they work to own painful and spiteful decisions of their pasts. These struggles, including Enberg’s, muddy up the investigation and keep the reader from figuring things out too soon.
I enjoyed this story, although it was a little slow getting started and the various subplots were complicated at times. I also liked reading about the different sections of Copenhagen, its historic buildings and the Danish way of life. Now that the author has established the main characters, I look forward to the second book in the series.
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